Furnas, aside from Sete Cidades, is probably the one place that everybody visiting São Miguel eventually comes across. How exactly this happens can vary, though. Because we are convinced that the Azores are best discovered individually, we will only give a couple of suggestions. Just as a disclaimer – we do not think that simply stopping at a couple of viewpoints by the Caldeiras and eating a Cozido das Furnas is the way. Anyway, let’s get to what we personally would recommend. We have combined four places:
- the Pico do Ferro with the viewpoint of the same name,
- the Lagoa das Furnas
- Ribeira Quente with the large beach Praia do Fogo, which is especially beloved by our kids.
Let’s get started…
Pico do Ferro
It is no secret that I’m a big fan or the sunrises on São Miguel. Additionally, the lesser frequented areas of the Azores, which Furnas is one of, are completely quiet early in the morning. The only being I have met here at that time of day were some rabbits, who seemed to have been enjoying the calm as quiet as much as I was. Further, the sunrise can be seen much later here, as the sun first needs to rise above the mountains, before travelling slowly from the Castello Branco down to the Lagoa das Furnas all the way to the city of Furnas.
In the cool morning air, the vapour of the Caldeiras still hangs in large clouds above the city and on the banks of the Lagoa das Furnas. The haze also persists in the depressions until the sun has warmed the floor enough for it to dissolve.
The vapour of the Caldeiras also becomes less and less visible with increasing temperatures. When you have enjoyed the view and the calm at the Pico do Ferro begins to subside with the rising sun, we recommend taking the hiking trail down to Lagoa das Furnas.
Hike from the Pico do Ferro to the Lagoa das Furnas
The hiking trail starts directly by this viewpoint here. So far, we have only walked the trail in that direction, even though it is technically a circular route. The path is part of the official hiking trail 22 SMI and not very difficult, despite the starting point looking a little daunting.
The way from the lookout to the lake can be walked easily in less than an hour and has a lot of different impressions to offer. Through the foliage, you can consistently see the Lago das Furnas. You can also discover many oddly shaped trees and plants here.
I find it really impressive how basically each and every location is completely green due to the warm climate and humidity. Even where larger plants are unable to grow, moss and ferns colour every surface a juicy green.
Lagoa das Furnas
Since the hiking trail practically leads you directly to the Caldeiras on the shores of Lagoa das Furnas, I would recommend taking a break here. There is a small food truck right by the lake that sells Bolos Lêvedos from Furnas and espresso, among other things. I think the two make an excellent combination and the supermarket-sold bolos definitely cannot keep up with these fresh ones. During the holiday season, the corn cobs cooked in the Caldeiras are also sold here. Out of season, these are usually only available in Furnas.
Of course you should also have a look at the Caldeiras with the Cozidos das Furnas hearths. The area, which a couple years ago was still completely open, is now all fenced in. You should still keep an eye on your small children, however. The water and steam are hot and can also emerge from ledges, cracks in the floor and elsewhere.
By the way, on the opposite side of the lake there is the botanical garden Mata Jardim Jose do Canto where the waterfall Salto do Rosal can be found. You should set aside enough time to explore this site, which is why we have written a separate article about it.
Depending on whether you feel like going to the beach or taking a trip to explore Furnas, you can do either from here.
Furnas has a couple of noteworthy sights. Aside from the Caldeiras and the popular restaurants, there is also the Parque Terra Nostra. You can easily spend an entire day in this park. Not quite as obvious is the Igreja de Santa Ana. It was built in a classic azorean style.
Sometimes, instead of their regular tune, the bells play little melodies. Listen to this short example:
You can’t really miss the Caldeiras on the way into the town coming from the direction of Povoação.
What’s a little trickier is trying to navigate the labyrinth of one-way-streets within the town. Most sat navs can help you out well. You are able to park here.
A short path leads you through the Caldeiras. At its end, near the spring “Água Sr Miguel Henrique”, it takes you back to the main road. Many “brave” people (even locals) fill up their water bottles here. I am not going to tell you not to, but personally I prefer fresh water without magical volcano energy.
You can also get better water from the old mineral water springs here .
If you follow the road a little further to the right along the stream, you will reach the place where this photo was taken.
There are not many better places to observe how much energy is contained within the ground still. On your way back to the car park, right by the entrance, you get another chance to stock up on corn cobs steamed in the Cladeiras or fresh Bolos Lêvedos.
Parque Terra Nostra
Speaking of energy from the ground: At the other end of Furnas you can find Parque Terra Nostra. Here, there is a large thermal pool, which is operated with warm and obviously very iron-rich water from the earth. If you’d like to take a bath there, you should not use light-coloured swimwear or towels. Aside from the pool, I think the beautifully landscaped botanical garden is particularly worth seeing. We have collated some impressions of it here for you to get an idea of what it’s like.
If you’d now like to relax for a while, Ribeira Quente and the Praia do Fogo are not far. On your way there, you will pass at least one more waterfall. It can be found in between the two tunnels on the right-hand side. These roads are usually completely deserted, so you will be able to stop briefly. I would not recommend getting out of your car here, however.
I said at least one waterfall, by the way, because one day a second waterfall appeared here all of a sudden, and disappeared again after a while. If you’d like to know more about this, we have some additional information and pictures of it in our post about the waterfalls on Sao Miguel.
In case you want to go for dinner as well, the “Ponta do Garajau” in Ribeira Quente offers pretty decent fish dishes (during the main holiday season, you should call ahead and reserve a table). If you prefer a Cozido das Furnas, you can stop by “O Miroma” oder “Tonys” in Furnas on your way back. Again, make sure to book a table, especially during the main holiday season.